Xbox’s Backward Compatibility Program is Back with New Games

Published · Nov 17, 2021

Microsoft put on hold the much-loved backward compatibility program two years ago. Now it’s returning for a final update, which will add 76 new games to the catalog.

Backward compatibility is the ability of a gaming console to play games from older consoles of the same brand. It was a common feature before the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 era when it began to die off.

Now, only two generations later, it’s seeing a resurgence. Xbox led the way with its backward compatibility program, while Playstation implemented a similar but more limited system called Playstation Now.

Both of the current-gen consoles, the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X, also have some backward compatibility built-in. The X can play some games from previous generations and the PS5—most PS4 games.

Among the titles added to the library are fan favorites like Skate 2, Quake Arena, and the Max Payne series.

Some cult titles like Manhunt, Conan, and Beautiful Katamari are included too.

Gaming Graveyards

Backward compatibility allows new players and veterans alike to access classic games. Without it or digital re-releases, some games die off. In such cases, getting to play them becomes difficult. The legal route is to find an old console, which can be expensive.

The less legal route is to emulate the game on a PC—something gaming publishers have mixed reactions to. The more litigious may press charges.

The situation becomes trickier with multiplayer games. As they age, studios may shut down their servers. This means users can never play them again or, if lucky, only access them over a local area network (LAN).

Generous devs may enable fans to maintain their own game hosting servers to keep the games alive. While some devs roll that feature out as the game’s support ends, others have it from the get-go. One such example is Minecraft, as it enables people to host their own Minecraft servers on a number of services.

These 76 games at least have been spared that fate. While the service will reportedly get no more updates, hopefully, console makers will continue to support backward compatibility at large.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.